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Award-Winning Author J.H. Moncrieff is a Genius

By Rachael Bush

I’ve been friends with J.H. Moncrieff since we were scheduled to be on a panel together at the Quills Conference three years ago, so you may think I’m biased. You’d be right. I am biased, but that doesn’t make her any less of a genius.

She presented Creating and Maintaining Suspense during our April Speaker Series. I asked her to present with the intention of helping members of the League who write horror, mystery, and thrillers. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that her presentation applies to everyone writing fiction, including me!

Not only did she discuss how to dial-up tension, but why we should do so in our writing. One of my favorite examples from her presentation was when she explained that our readers are in a dark room. They can’t see anything and have no idea what’s going on. It’s our job, as authors, to turn on one light at a time to show them only what we want them to see. If we turn on all the lights, they know everything, and it ruins the suspense. That got me thinking about my favorite books, regardless of genre, and I realized they all slowly expose details of setting, character, and story, pulling me in until I’m reading far too late into the night.

The most important thing I took away from J.H.’s presentation is balancing dialogue, action, and narrative. If you have too much of any one element, the story is going to feel off balance. I’d never thought about this before, and now, I’ll never forget it. In fact, I’m going to write it on a sticky note and put it next to my computer when I’m doing revisions. It’ll be a good reminder that even though I love to write dialogue, I need the other bits to balance out my stories.

In the span of an hour, J.H. Moncrieff discusses anti-heroes, raising stakes, increasing tension, delaying gratification, and the three crucial ingredients every story needs. Be prepared to have your mind blown. I know mine was. If you missed this presentation and are a member of the League of Utah Writers, be sure to get the video link from your chapter president. Chantelle Aimée Osman, editor of Agora, an imprint of Polis Books, is presenting May 20th, 2021, at 7:00 pm MDT about Pitching and Querying, and you won’t want to miss it!

Rachael Bush

Rachael Bush published her fourth book, Love on Location, with The Wild Rose Press in 2018 under her pen name, September Roberts. As September, she writes romance that's smoking hot and always happy ever after. As Rachael, she writes short stories about her tumultuous childhood (featured in the 85th anniversary League anthology, The function of Freedom) and the Botany for Everyone series. When she's not writing, she volunteers for the League of Utah Writers as the Blue Quill chapter president, the Marketing Chair, and builds the app for our conferences. For nerdy science and art, follow Rachael on Instagram @botanyforeveryone


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